May Day noise demo at Toronto South Detention Centre

Anonymous submission to North Shore

For May Day this year, despite the current limitations on some of our traditional activities, we wanted to safely take to the streets. It was a perfect opportunity to do a demonstration we’d been thinking about at Toronto South Detention Centre. Toronto South, nicknamed “Guantanamo South”, is a horrific place, and an especially dangerous place to be during a pandemic.

Just as dark fell on May 1st, we gathered in a parking lot nearby to go over the plan, and one person gave this statement:

“It’s May Day, or International Workers Day, a day to celebrate anti-capitalist struggles and fight for our collective freedom. The struggle against prisons is tied to so many other fights we’re engaged in, as a threat and punishment that keeps us trapped in the current system. From rent strikes to labour strikes, so often the law is used to clamp down on these struggles and the ultimate threat we’re facing IS prison. Our struggles are interconnected. We also know that people living in poverty, people living with mental illness, or addiction, and Black people, Indigenous people, and people of colour are way more likely to end up in prison. Right now as we find ways to respond to COVID-19 as a community, people in prison face an elevated risk and don’t have the same ability to protect themselves. Recently, the Brampton jail was shut down after 60 inmates tested positive and the entire jail was transferred [to Toronto South]. We can only imagine that people inside are feeling pretty scared and isolated, and tonight is about letting them know that we haven’t forgotten about them and we’re fighting for all of them to be free.”

We drove down a fairly empty road that was visible from many of the massive prison’s windows, stopped in one lane of traffic and did everything we could to get the attention of people inside, blaring car horns and shooting off fireworks. We stayed just under 10 minutes – right now we’re testing new boundaries in this current context of social distancing and new police powers, and it might’ve been possible to stay longer, but this felt okay for a first try.

Some people closer to the prison windows reported seeing some response from folks inside, but overall it was a bit hard to tell if people could see us well or could tell what was happening. It’ll take more experimentation to tell what works best at this particular site for getting our message across.

It was also so heartwarming to find ways to be around comrades on this day, and we think it’s important to continue to find ways to do so. We hope that this demonstration made people inside feel less alone too, and let them know that we know that our desire for their, and all of our freedoms burns bright.